Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
Asbestos and the Risk of Cancer
Peer Review Status: Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cancer Information Service
Asbestos is a name given to fibers, or thin threads, that occur when a certain type of rock is crushed and mined. The fibers are strong, durable, and resistant to heat. These qualities have made asbestos popular to be used in insulation, acoustical tiles, floor tiles, and automotive brake assemblies. Asbestos fibers tend to break easily into a dust composed of tiny particles that can float in the air and stick to clothes. The fibers may be easily inhaled or swallowed. This can cause serious health problems and even cancer. Asbestos is linked to lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the voice box, mouth, kidney, and digestive tract cancers.
Asbestos was banned for use in products used in homes, in the 1970s. Any new product using asbestos was banned in 1989. But products using asbestos before that year are still allowed.
Nearly everyone has been exposed to asbestos at some point in their life. Most people do not become ill because of that exposure, however. People who develop asbestos related cancers are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the asbestos fibers.
Occupations with heavy asbestos exposure:
People who have worked around asbestos should tell their doctor about the exposure and any symptoms they may have. Asbestos can be measured in urine, stool, mucous, or liquid removed from the lung. Chest x-rays cannot detect asbestos fibers in the lung, but they can help identify any lung changes from the asbestos exposure.
Symptoms of asbestos related disease may not occur until decades after the exposure. The following are symptoms of asbestos related disease:
Workers who know they are being exposed to asbestos should follow the government's regulations that deal with asbestos exposure on the job. Workers who are concerned with asbestos exposure in the workplace should talk with other employees, their employee health and safety representative and their employers. If necessary, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) can provide information or make an inspection of the workplace. Regional offices of OSHA are listed in the "United States Government" section of telephone books.
Last modification date:
Mon Aug 7 13:09:56 2006